Fairfax Co. schools draft policy to not voluntarily cooperate with ICE

It’s been over three months since the Fairfax County, Virginia, government adopted its Public Trust and Confidentiality Policy, which states that the county will not voluntarily cooperate with enforcing federal civil immigration laws.

Now, Fairfax County Public Schools is drafting a similar policy of its own.

The school board voted unanimously Tuesday to develop one that aligns with the county’s, in an effort to build trust with immigrant kids and families in the district.

“For too many immigrant families, the trust has been broken. To regain their confidence, we must demonstrate in all that we do that we are in the business of education and nothing more,” board chair Ricardy Anderson said in a statement. “The fear of being reported or deported is keeping families from accessing the critical resources that Fairfax County Public Schools provides.”

Under such a policy, cooperation with federal agencies like Immigration and Customs Enforcement will be prohibited unless there’s a court order.

“This policy will make sure that FCPS teachers and staff understand that there is a process here … and that their first responsibility is to protect the information of their students,” board member Karl Frisch told WTOP.

It will also change the way people view their relationship with schools, he said, and help them see schools as safe places.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act maintains the confidentiality of student information, including immigration status; but the district explained that ICE has exploited weaknesses in U.S. privacy laws through its use of data mining.

According to the district, concerns about information sharing hamper not only educational success but also safety. It recounted, for example, how one former undocumented student told the board in 2018 that he never reported bullying and assaults out of fear he would be reported to ICE.

Those concerns also make undocumented families less likely to take advantage of resources, such as meals, mental health services and parent workshops – another thing that the district hopes to change.

“They’re no different than anybody else,” Frisch said, “but there’s been a climate in this country that has kept many immigrant families from taking advantage of these resources, and that’s what this policy aims to stop.”

WTOP’s Kristi King contributed to this report.

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Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to WTOP.com when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer.

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